Thinking Out Loud

September 30, 2021

The Jesus Music: A Look at The Way We Were

Watching a movie about an aspect of 20th Century Christian history with which you were intimately involved is a daunting task. You never know how it’s going to impact you.

As I sat watching The Jesus Music (opening in theaters Friday) my first concern was that they would get the history right. Being involved in the early days of what is now called Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) often means hearing people getting the details wrong.

But such was not the case, in fact, they did their homework well, as they also did when it came to finding film clips, stills, and archived interviews. This is, overall, a high quality documentary.

My next takeaway was seeing people who were friends back in the day, people who, even now, might recognize me by name if I walked into a room. People with whom I corresponded.

To that end, I wasn’t prepared for the lump in my throat and the tears starting to form, especially during the first half hour of the film. Those early Jesus Music days were telling my story, and opening up associations from deep in the recesses of my memory.

Because of that, I wished they had spent more time on the period starting in the late ’60s and most of the 1970s. That was the true Jesus Music era and the rest of the film was more focused on the earlier days of CCM as it came to be.

It also helps if you know who is speaking onscreen. There were names in the bottom corner — often for too short a time — but no voice-over announcer to describe their relationship to the story. This is a nostalgia documentary for people like me. It’s also a story of the growth of Jesus Music in America; references to what was taking place in the UK — which were significant — were quite sparse.

While other reviewers will focus on the artists, for me it was the narratives from some of the behind-the-scenes people, such as John Styll from CCM Magazine, author John Thompson, or pastor Greg Laurie who had front row seats on the birth of Jesus Music. Those people, along with pioneers Tommy Coomes, Chuck Girard, and Glenn Kaiser made the movie for me, as did the very candid revelations from Amy Grant, Michael W. Smith, and the guys from DC Talk.

The filmmakers also highlighted the influence that Explo ’72 in Dallas had on the explosive proliferation of the music, and in particular, the wholehearted endorsement of Rev. Billy Graham; an endorsement given even as other evangelists, such as Jimmy Swaggart, were condemning the very notion of Christian rock.

In addition to following the trail from Jesus Music to CCM, the movie touched briefly on the path from CCM to Modern Worship.

There’s no denying that the Christian music industry is huge. The film suggested that the commercial influences that plagued CCM at its peak weren’t present so much in modern worship. Not sure I agree with that one; it’s just that today the dark side of the industry has less to do with unit sales of product and more with who holds copyrights.

In one scene concerning the profit-driven nature of the industry, it seemed that as the genre being profiled got more commercial, the movie itself got more commercial. In one 15-second moment, a series of album covers and audio bites of songs played in succession, and all that was missing was the 800-number to call and order the album from Time-Life.

The producers were not afraid to delve into controversy, but chose to leave on a high note, suggesting that the conditions are presently ideal for another Jesus People revolution. In many respects, I hope that is true, especially if it gets back to the basics outlined in the film’s first 30 minutes or so.

There was also an acknowledgement of the fact that, Andrae Crouch notwithstanding, the history of CCM up to the present moment is still somewhat racially segregated.

Co-produced by K-LOVE, there is an underlying radio focus. Speculation as to whether Larry Norman’s often gritty lyrics could get played on today’s family-friendly Christian stations becomes moot when you consider that in a world of indie-artists, Christian radio is no longer the primary means by which many Christian musicians reach an audience.

Again, this movie was well done. I am thankful for the opportunity to preview it, and they were indeed telling my story and telling it well.

I am also very grateful for the role that Jesus Music played in my life and where I am today is a direct product of the seeds planted by those artists all those years ago. 

Watch the trailer for The Jesus Music

December 28, 2020

In The Days Before Contemporary Christian Music (CCM)

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 3:11 pm

Today on Christianity 201, I used a very, very old song as a springboard for the discussion which followed. I’ve left some of the introduction intact below, but this won’t be a mirror of what appears there later today. [Ed. note: He changed his mind on that!]

The song was written by Ralph Carmichael. It’s called “A Quiet Place” Below is the original, though I used a different group at C201 today because the volume seemed low on this one.

Musically it’s almost elevator music by today’s standards. But then, it was the beginning of something new. Released through Light Records there was a small advertisement on the back if you wanted to buy the music book. No, not that kind of music book with the melody line and guitar chords. This was the music book for your choir, with the pieces charted in SATB 4-part choral notation.

CCM was still a long way off.

Larry Norman may have been asking ‘Why should Satan have all the great tunes’ — that’s exactly how he said it, right? — and Andrae Crouch and the Disciples may have been jamming in his dad’s church auditorium, but when it came to mainstream, Ralph Carmichael officially gave the church permission to take a big tiny step towards the Top 40.

I’m fairly certain you could get the album free with a 2-year subscription to Campus Life magazine.

If you want to experience the whole album, here’s the link:

…At C201 today, the reason I chose the song “A Quiet Place” is because I think most Evangelicals think of their daily Bible reading as devotions and not so much quiet time. Perhaps I’m wrong vis-a-vis the local church community where you find yourself right now. But you can read all that in the intro below, and catch the remainder of the reading at 5:30 PM EST at C201…


On second thought, once I started posting this, I decided to just share the whole thing after all. There are a couple of really good links I didn’t want Thinking Out Loud readers to miss.


For most readers here, the content would be described as devotionals or devotional readings. I have always taken the meaning to refer to this practice or spiritual discipline that we do out of devotion to God.

Working in the world of Christian publishing however, I frequently encounter people — a large number from a Catholic background or people who have had exposure to recovery programs — who refer to devotional books as meditations or meditational readings. I do like the idea that one doesn’t just read the words and close the book and walk away. Rather one ruminates or chews the text in their mind.

There is however a third term which, although I am very familiar with it, isn’t something we’ve used here: quiet time.

This song, written by Ralph Carmichael, was part of a collection that for many people mark the beginning of what we call Contemporary Christian Music. But we’re here to look at the lyrics.

There is a quiet place
Far from the rapid pace
Where God can soothe my troubled mind

Sheltered by tree and flower
There in that quiet hour
With him my cares are left behind

Whether a garden small
Or on a mountain tall
New strength and courage there I find

Then from this quiet place
I go prepared to face
A new day with love for all mankind

A search for scripture verses about having a quiet time takes us to these:

…he delights in the teachings of the LORD and reflects on his teachings day and night. – Psalm 1:2 GW

But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. – Matthew 6:6 NIV

…Jesus insisted that his disciples get back into the boat and cross to the other side of the lake, while he sent the people home. After sending them home, he went up into the hills by himself to pray. Night fell while he was there alone. – Mathew 14:22-23 NLT

Early in the morning, well before sunrise, Jesus rose and went to a deserted place where he could be alone in prayer. – Mark 1:35 CEB

Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. – Joshua 1:8a NLT

and finally

But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed. – Luke 5:16 NIV

UK writer Daisy Logan has offered sixteen different ways we can improve our quiet time. Not all of these may work for you, but I encourage you to click here to read her suggestions.

The website for CRU (formerly Campus Crusade) looks at several different elements your quiet time can contain, including opening your Bible and methodically studying a section of text, followed by four types of prayer. Click here to read their template for quiet times.

The website GotQuestions.org reminds us that,

Every believer needs a quiet time with the Lord. If Jesus Himself needed it, how much more do we? Jesus frequently moved away from the others in order to commune with His Father regularly…

The length of the quiet time does not matter, but it should be enough time to meditate on what was read and then pray about it or anything else that comes to mind. Drawing near to God is a rewarding experience, and once a regular habit of quiet time is created, a specific time for study and prayer is eagerly looked forward to. If our schedules are so full and pressing that we feel we cannot carve out some time daily to meet with our heavenly Father, then a revision of our schedules to weed out the “busyness” is in order.

I realize that for some people, the thought of pausing at a certain time each day, or even the use of the word meditation triggers thoughts of Eastern religions. Got Questions addresses this:

A note of caution: some Eastern religions that teach the principles of meditation include instructions on “emptying the mind” by concentrating on repeating a sound or a particular word over and over. Doing so leaves room for Satan to enter and to wreak havoc in our minds. Instead, Christians should follow the advice of the apostle Paul in Philippians 4:8: “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” Filling one’s mind with these beautiful thoughts cannot help but bring peace and please God. Our quiet time should be a time of transformation through the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2), not through the emptying of them.

I want to invite you to listen to the short song one more time. This time think about what ought to be the result of our quiet time with God:

Then from this quiet place
I go prepared to face
A new day with love for all mankind

The fruit or benefit of time spent in study and prayer will come out in our lives in ways that will affect others as well as ourselves.

October 14, 2020

The Most Uncomfortable Seat I Ever Had at Church

Arriving at Calvary Chapel in Costa Mesa, California for the first time in late 1979, I decided I wanted to have the whole Jesus People experience.

Calvary is known as the birthplace of Maranatha! Music and the Pacific Ocean baptisms in Pirate’s Cove. It’s the place where rather than hear the old guard complain about the rivets in the hippies’ blue jeans scratching the pews, they simply removed the pews.

But by the time I got there, the Sunday morning service was fairly traditional. They sang from Inspiring Hymns, the same hymnal my parent’s church used back home. Despite what the band Love Song sang about the “Little Country Church” with “Long hair, short hair, some coats and ties;” there were actually a lot of men in sport coats and ties. It took some adjusting.

One remnant still remained from the earlier days in their older building — which by that time was the Maranatha! Village bookstore — and that was the remnant of people who sat on the floor at the front.

I had to discretely shift my position a few times during the sermon. The floor was plush carpeting but I wasn’t a little kid who could sit cross-legged for an hour school assembly. I think I was somewhat sprawled out by the final one-third of the message. Probably a bit undignified, but I wasn’t alone.

Despite a sore back for the rest of the day, I’m glad I did it. I got to share a piece of history. I feel connected to those just a bit a older than me who sensed a call to the “church on the edge of town” to worship with others of their generation.

photo: Calvary Chapel via this story at Premiere Christianity (UK)

June 3, 2018

My Favorite Worship Song Doesn’t Work Congregationally

The blue Pacific on a summer’s day
Rushing in to meet the yellow sand
The view’s terrific I see Monterrey
Lookin’ mighty fine from where I stand
The water dances in the sun’s reflection
A thousand silver birds fly in my direction
Now isn’t it beauty, isn’t it sweet perfection?

If someone were to ask me my favorite worship song, I suppose I could easily think of songs like “Shout to the Lord,” “Majesty,” “How Great Is Our God,” “Revelation Song,” and a number of hymns including “Our Great Savior,” which you may or may not know.

But not every praise song is meant to be sung congregationally, and we do ourselves a disservice when we try to take every great worship chorus and force congregations to sing songs that perhaps don’t match up with their personal expression of adoration to God. Sometimes we’re just meant to listen to someone else’s thoughts.

The song embedded below is an example of that. The late Tom Howard wrote “One More Reason” with a first verse that expresses the beauty of God in creation that he is familiar with growing up in California, with its references to the Pacific Ocean and Monterrey; the spirit of which was captured by the person who made the tribute video. To sing this in our church, the first thing I would want to do is make that verse more generic, but I’ve never got around to writing different lyrics because I rather enjoy the song just the way he wrote it.

The sky is singing, the earth proclaims
Always one more reason to praise Your name.

April 20, 2017

How Do You Spell Determination?

There’s an audio clip at the end of this post which may or may not interest some of you. What I want to focus on is not only what’s on that 16-minute audio but also how it came to be there.

The bookstore my wife and I own inadvertently sponsored a YouTube channel. I mean that in the sense that we wanted to call it “The Lost Song Collection” and post songs from the Jesus Music era, a term referencing the days before CCM was called Contemporary Christian Music. Things nobody else had posted. Things sourced from vinyl records. But before we knew what we were doing, the channel had been named after the bookstore and it was too much of a hassle to change it.

One of the things we posted there was a demo of a Christian radio show from that time period, “A Joyful Noise” by Frank Edmondson under the on-air name Paul Baker. But I also wanted to include another I owned, “The Rock That Never Rolls” with Dale Yancy aka Brother Dale.

This was a demo of a Christian radio show from the ’70s that would be scheduled on non-Christian radio stations which at the time had obligations to include public service or religious content, but didn’t want to lose their regular listeners with programming that was uncool. Program demos like this did not include songs, or if they did, the songs were “telescoped” to allow station Program Directors to hear a variety of content in a short time. The show originated in Burlington, VT.

At the time this was produced, the show was airing in Chicago, Montreal, San Diego, Raleigh, Tulsa, Cincinnati, Dallas, Nashville and Honolulu. The show included interviews, comedy, music and mock commercials. It was sent to me back in the day because we were hoping to find a way to bring the show to Ontario. I really wish there were more shows like this today, though Brant Hansen’s work comes to mind.

I looked high and low for my copy of this. It had been sent to me on a five-inch reel-to-reel in a box with a bright green sticker, but I couldn’t locate it, and wasn’t sure what I would do anyway, since the R2R machine has been sitting under my desk unused for 25+ years.

But I knew I had a cassette of it, which, thanks to a flooded basement, we found last week. The problem was, the cassette was jammed and then broke. Fortunately, my wife is very determined.

First, she tried to loosen up the tape in the cassette housing, and when that didn’t work she broke the tape free of the plastic case. At that point I thought the project was doomed. Then she tried to spool the tape off so she could load it into another case, but it kept sticking. So she soaked the tape in water to loosen it up and then spooled the cassette tape on to an empty film canister, and then reloaded into the other housing, sealed the case and placed it in a cassette player and converted it to digital. There are some skips where part of the new cassette continued to jam, but the overall sound quality is surprisingly good for something which survived a flood.

There are probably archaeologists who haven’t gone to as much trouble to reconstruct a relic as Ruth did to restore this. Or crime scene investigators. (Please do not start mailing us your problem cassettes.) I wish we’d taken some pictures.

My wife hates to back down from a fight. And she knew it meant a lot to me. That’s the main thing; she knew it would make me happy. So she took a half day to attempt what I considered impossible. And she knew that if I thought the radio show was all that interesting, someone else might as well. 

I guess radio shows like this really mattered to me back then. While radio isn’t a force in either evangelism or introducing new music as it once was, this represented a golden age for what was then Jesus Music. You never knew who was listening and stories abounded of people who credit their life turnaround to randomly tuning the AM or FM dial.

So how do I spell determination? R-u-t-h. She pulled it off after all. I should never have doubted!

Sit back and travel back in time and enjoy, The Rock That Never Rolls: The Sound of Eternity…

The video ends with some classic KYMS radio jingles which were on the end of the cassette.

September 4, 2016

CCM: Where it All Began

Next time you’re in the music department of a Christian bookstore, or listening to 20 The Countdown Magazine, realize you’re seeing/hearing the after effects of a movement which goes back a couple of generations. Today’s featured videos are all from the same YouTube user channel, Donald Gordon, Jr.











June 26, 2016

More from the Lost Songs Channel: CCM’s Early Days

Part two of the top-ranking songs on the YouTube channel I manage for Searchlight Book. See yesterday’s post for the top 5 Click through to YT for descriptions. And when I say top-ranking, realize this is a rather obscure YT channel. These are very old CCM songs and the criteria for choosing them was to select songs that had not been uploaded (that we could find) on the day they were posted.

#6 Noel Paul Stookey – Building Block (1982)

#8* Danniebelle Hall – Work The Works (1974)

#9 Wayne Watson – Born in Zion (1985)

#10 Craig Smith – God and Man at Table are Sat Down (1979)

#12* John Fischer – Righteous Man

*Items 7 and 11 on this site are spoken-word (non-music) extras.

Yes, John Fischer had two songs on this list. I always felt the chorus of the one featured today, Righteous Man, would make a great song for Promise Keepers.

June 25, 2016

Samples from the Lost Songs YouTube Channel

Today, the top-ranking songs on the YouTube channel I oversee which is sponsored by Searchlight Books but has never, to the best of my knowledge, posted anything that has anything to do with books. We think of it as a “Lost songs of Christian music” channel, and that’s what it should have been named; additionally we started out with songs that had not been posted by others, so these were intended to be unique in terms of what’s on YouTube. Click through to YT for descriptions. And when I say top-ranking, realize this is a rather obscure YT channel.  Again, remember these are very old CCM songs.

#1 Barry McGuire – Communion Song (1977)

#2 Ken Medema – Lord, Listen To Your Children Praying (1973)

#3 Scott Wesley Brown – I Wish You Jesus (197?)

#4 John Fischer – All Day Song (197?)

#5 Michael and Stormie Omartian – Seasons of the Soul (1978)

July 17, 2015

Crossover Songs from the Past

In the early days of CCM (Contemporary Christian Music) artists simply hit the streets with their music, often selling records out of the trunk of a car. As distribution solidified and the concert scene got more sophisticated, Christian solo acts and bands started dreaming of elusive crossover hit; the record that would go viral (though we didn’t have that expression back then) in the secular mainstream.

Often this became an obsession. One speaker at a conference I attended was quick to remind attendees, “If you’re going to crossover, you’ve got to take the cross over.” It was a good lesson and perhaps a bit prophetic, given the number of songs today that could easily pass as boyfriend/girlfriend love songs. When you factor in that the norm today is vertical worship music, it makes the love crush songs seem even more desperate for acceptance.

In the middle of all this however, something more significant was taking place. What I would call reverse crossover songs. To a young Christian, hearing these bands reinforcing their faith would be a huge encouragement. Today I want to highlight three of these songs, and if I get direct messages on Twitter or comments here with other suggestions, we might do more of these again some time. We’ll start with one that was in the link list a few weeks ago.

Given The Osmond Brothers Mormon (LDS) heritage, this song, He’s the Light of the World should come as no surprise. The lyrics have a high percentage of scripture borrowing with some lines you’ll recognize from The Sermon on the Mount.

This next one I was always aware of, but I don’t know if I’d ever listened to it at the time all the way through. (More on that at the end of this article.) This is the Chairmen of the Board, whose biggest hit was Gimme Just a Little More Time. This one is I’m On My Way to a Better Place. The quality isn’t great, but the lyrics are clear. (If anyone wants to send me a better quality mp3 by email, I’ll post it on my own channel.)

The last one we’ve featured here before, but it’s an always timely song. The Chi-Lites There Will Never Be Any Peace was also recorded by Christian band The Imperials.

Finally, the common link in all these is a radio show from that era, called A Joyful Noise with Paul Baker (aka Frank Edmondson). You’ll hear a telescoped version of these and other songs. With this, I have two requests. First, if anyone can tell me where Paul/Frank ended up, I’d appreciate it. Second, I’m trying to get my hands on a similar telescoped music demo of a similar radio show The Rock That Never Rolls with Brother Dale (aka Dale Yancey). I had a reel-to-reel version of it, but now I can’t even find that. I’d love to post that on the Lost Music channel on YouTube, sponsored by the people I work for, Searchlight Books. That show was light years ahead of its time.

June 9, 2015

Toward a Post-Industrial Faith

Reading John J. Thompson’s Jesus, Bread, and Chocolate: Crafting a Handmade Faith in a Mass-Market World, makes me wish that Zondervan had a sort of outreach imprint like Baker Books has with Brazos or NavPress has with Think, because this is probably the best example of what we once termed a pre-evangelism resource.

Jesus Bread and Chocolate - John J. ThompsonSaid differently, this is the book you always wished existed so you could start the conversation with that friend, neighbor, relative or co-worker who believes that Christians are people who simply don’t [fill in the blank] and one of the the things they don’t enjoy is, for example, a decent glass of wine.

Of course, if you think that beer is of the devil, or that an $8 loaf of bread is simply bad stewardship, this is probably not the book for you.

I was drawn to review this after watching an interview the author did with Phil Vischer and Skye Jethani a few weeks earlier. I connected the name with a Christian music store called True Tunes that specialized in all the hard-to-find, out-of-print and imported Jesus Music and CCM that was born in the days of the Jesus People in the 1970s.

However, people do move on to other interests and reinvent themselves, and although the book has a chapter which references those early Christian music days, John Thompson has emerged as a connoisseur of quality beer, wine, coffee, bread and sees in the making and enjoying of these things a number of modern day — or more accurately ancient — parables to everyday life and faith. (If they published in hardcover, and added more pictures, this could be a coffee-table book about coffee!) 

Yes, the above paragraph does say beer and wine; you can almost hear the sound of the demographic narrowing. If your definition of what constitutes a Christian book is, well, more somber, then again, this title is probably not your particular cup of tea, or in this case coffee. So I’m going to let the publisher define it for you:

Farmer’s markets, artisanal dark chocolate, home-made bread, craft-brewed beer,  and independent boutique coffee shops may not immediately call to mind issues of faith, but they should. As the “American Dream” starts to fray at both ends, millions of people are embracing values that seem to hail from a bygone era. They are seeking out the local, the small, the responsible and the nourishing instead of the cheap, the homogenized, the mass-produced and the canned.

Is it possible that this renewed interest in these pre-modern values may actually offer an open door into the hearts and minds of this generation? Is there a way to explore specific, inspiring stories about coffee, bread, chocolate and art that lead people toward a truly Biblical understanding of the person, words and work of Jesus to reveal the truth, goodness and beauty of the Gospel?

With fascinating stories and a thread of memoir, Jesus, Bread, and Chocolate explores the emerging—actually re-emerging—values of this post-industrial age and points out parallels between them and the teaching and ministry of Jesus and his earliest followers. Rather than seeking to tie the faith to trends in the culture, it shows how trends in the culture are already very close to the organic kind of faith that could re-energize the church and bring countless young and middle-aged people into a saving experience of Christ.

I think that last paragraph might leave you feeling the book is less accessible than it is. Let’s just say that Jesus, Bread, and Chocolate is equal parts quality food, heartfelt autobiography, and a whole lot of stuff to think about.

 

 

 

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